HOW HOTELS CAN USE SMARTPHONES

Person using cell phone.

By 2019, almost 3 billion people across the world are projected to own a smartphone. In the USA, 247.5 million people are expected to be smartphone users by 2019 – that’s over 75 percent of the country’s population. In New Zealand, 70 percent of adults owned a smartphone by 2015.

Millennials are projected to make up to 75 percent of hotel guests by 2020, so the amount of hotel guests with smartphones is only going to get higher. For hotels, understanding that most guests will come with a smartphone gives them a chance to use the technology that guests already have in their pockets.

mi-pad Queenstown is an exemplary case of a New Zealand hotel that uses guests’ smartphones to its advantage, building the how hotel around its tech features. Through its app called mia, guests can control the brightness and colour of the lighting, heating, air-con and much more.

“Our mi-pad hotel has been developed as a new generation hotel to include the tech-savvy and young and young at heart as potential guests,” said Stephen Borcoskie, mi-pad Queenstown.

“Mobile access was one component considered in enabling the guest experience, particularly the arrival experience, and has been bundled in our mia app to achieve this objective along with booking, heating and lighting control as the ‘need-to-haves’.”

So far the hotel has found that guests have readily accepted the tech, or are least open to trialling and using the app.

“We are continuing to build this acceptance into the booking journey. Guests’ mobile phones essentially replace the need for a key card, an air con remote control, and a light switch although these redundant systems are still offered, room service can be requested through the phone, and there is no need for a separate torch as each phone has one inbuilt.”

Further down the country, at DoubleTree by Hilton Wellington, guests can choose rooms with their Hilton Honors app. When guests check-in and choose a place, they are then issued a digital key to unlock their room door. Unlike the mia app, Hilton Honors is an app built for hotels across the chain rather than purpose-built.

A lot of the biggest smart-phone innovation though is coming from abroad. At Virgin Hotels Chicago there is an app purpose-built specifically for the hotel. Through it, guests can order extra pillows, laundry pick-ups or valet service through a personal concierge called Lucy, without talking to any real people. The app also allows guests to change in-room music and television through their phone.

The Standard Hotel in New York is more experimental with its approach to utilising smartphones. It introduced its new app ‘Lobby’, a digital place where guests can meet and converse anonymously under an alias, and even plan to meet up if they make a personal connection – almost like Tinder, although the company dislikes the comparison.

“We’ve created a platform that connects social networking to a physical space all for the purpose of putting your phone down and making a human connection,” said Amar Lalvani, CEO, Standard International.

“We understand that people often become a different version of themselves when they travel, especially when they stay in hotels. They become more adventurous, more spontaneous and more curious. This app is meant to bridge that spontaneity.”

Unique uses of technology are increasingly important to stand out in a hotel market where guests are more and more eager for new experiences they can’t find anywhere else. Tapping into the power guests have in their pocket is an opportunity that no hotel should look past, as the hardware is already there.